WASHINGTON ? Democrats have locked in the votes to block Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, meaning Republicans will have to take the extreme step of blowing up Senate rules to confirm him.
Democratic lawmakers have been vowing for weeks to deny a vote to President Donald Trump?s court pick, and have been inching closer to the 41 members they need to filibuster him. They hit the magic number on Monday when Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) announced he will join the blockade.
?I will be voting against cloture,? Coons said, using technical terms to mean he will join the Democratic filibuster, ?unless we are able, as a body, to finally sit down and find a way to … ensure the process to fill the next vacancy on the court is not a narrowly partisan process.?
The news means Republicans have a choice: cave to Democrats? demands that Trump put forward a different nominee (highly unlikely) or unilaterally change the rules so they can confirm Gorsuch without Democrats (likely). It currently takes 60 votes to advance a Supreme Court nominee. Republicans appear ready to use a procedural maneuver to lower that threshold to 51 votes.
Nobody really likes the idea of changing that rule. There?s currently a filibuster rule in place for advancing Supreme Court nominees and for passing bills (Democrats got rid of the rule for lower court nominees in 2013).
If Republicans eliminate the 60-vote requirement for Gorsuch, some fear it?s only a matter of time until senators do away with the filibuster rule altogether. That would make the Senate function a lot more like the House, where simple majority rules, and erode the institution of the Senate, which prides itself on requiring consensus to get things done.
?It makes me very sad,? Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said last week.
Partisan tensions are high. Democrats are still mad at Republicans for the way they treated President Barack Obama?s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. The GOP spent all last year refusing to even give Garland a hearing, and held over the vacant Supreme Court seat for Trump to fill with Gorsuch.
Democrats are also under intense pressure from their base to stop Gorsuch. Republicans, meanwhile, are angry that Democrats are forcing them to decide between confirming Gorsuch and gutting Senate rules they actually like.
Gorsuch appears on track for his procedural vote, the ?cloture? vote that Democrats plan to filibuster, on Thursday.
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